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Year 4 Music

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The Story of Swan Lake

bonny bobby shaftoe

On the night before the grand ball in Prince Siegfried’s palace, the prince’s mother told her son he must choose a wife. But Siegfried preferred to go hunting. He grabbed his crossbow and set off into the forest. A flock of wild swans flew overhead. As darkness fell, Siegfried came upon a mysterious lake. A line of swans glided silently toward him. He raised his crossbow to shoot.

The nearest swan rose from the water and transformed herself into a beautiful young woman. 'I am Odette, princess of the swans,' she said. 'An evil magician cast a spell on us. We are human from midnight to dawn, but by day we are swans, always under the power of the evil Von Rothbart.'

Siegfried asked if there was a way to break the spell and Odette answered: 'Only when someone falls in love with me and promises to stay faithful forever'. Siegfried knew he could make that promise. As their eyes met in a moment of true love, the air grew cold and an owl swooped down with a shriek. 'Von Rothbart!' cried Odette, and she became a swan again.

The next night, at the palace ball, all Siegfried could think about was the swan princess. Suddenly, two new guests arrived: a tall man in a swirling black cape and Odile, a beautiful young woman in a flowing black dress. Siegfried stared. Could it be? The swan princess? What he didn't know was that Von Rothbart had cast a spell on his own daughter, Odile, to make her look just like Odette. Just before midnight, Siegfried announced that he had found the girl he wished to marry. The caped man stepped forward. 'Do you truly love her?' he demanded.

'I do,' said Siegfried. A crash of thunder shook the castle. A bolt of lightning ripped the sky. Instantly, Odile changed into an ugly hag. Only then did Siegfried see the white swan, beating its wings at the window. What a mistake he had made!

He ran out into the storm. 'Odette!' he cried. He ran to the lake and found the swan maidens, huddled together on the shore, weeping. Standing apart, on a high rocky ledge, was his beloved Odette. 'Forgive me,' cried Siegfried. 'I was tricked by Von Rothbart. It's you whom I love.' They embraced, silently and for a long time.

'My dear prince,' said Odette, 'I cannot be yours, but I will not be Von Rothbart's. Remember, I will love you for all time.' Then she slipped from his arms and leapt into the dark water. Without a pause, Siegfried leapt in after her. There was a splash, then the waters closed quietly over them both. A shrill cry pierced the night, like the scream of an owl dying. Von Rothbart's evil magic was destroyed by the love between Odette and Siegfried.


This activity is adapted from page 211-213 of What Your Year 4 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

Click below to see a related activity.

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